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Mariano Rivera’s cutter: “a gift from God”

Mar 2, 2012, 9:44 AM EDT

Mariano Rivera

I’m guessing Yankees fans have heard this story before, but I don’t recall it.  Here’s Bob Klapisch, relating the story of Mariano Rivera discovering his cutter.  Given how dominant and unique Rivera is, it’s not terribly unlike a superhero creation story:

Its genesis is well known in the Yankees’ family, although Rivera still takes pleasure in explaining how a simple game of catch with Ramiro Mendoza changed his life 15 years ago.

“All of a sudden the ball started moving, cutting, in a way I’d never seen before,” Rivera said. “I wasn’t doing anything different, yet it had a life of its own. So, tell me, how do you explain that? [Mendoza] kept asking me what I was doing to make the ball move like that, and I had no answer. To me, the pitch was a gift from God.  How can I really teach this pitch if I can’t explain how it came to me in the first place?”

And that’s the crux of Klapisch’s piece: Rivera will try to teach it to anyone who wants to learn it, but no one else can do it.  His remains the single most lethal pitch in baseball after all these years, and it remains his alone.

I never get too wrapped up in mythologizing baseball players. But if one of our era deserves it, it’s Rivera. He’s just a different case altogether.

  1. buffalomafia - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    Best releiver of all time!

    • phukyouk - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:12 AM

      nu uh! what about… well there was… ok.. but that guy… yea.. you’re right

  2. frankenderek - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Where was God when Gonzo hit that bloop single?

    • lardin - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      Sucking the brains out of Joe Torre, who had the Yankees infielders playing in on the grass. Had Jeter been playing at double play depth, he might have caught the bloop.

      • yankeesgameday - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:10 AM

        WOULD HAVE caught the bloop.

        And let’s put a little devil on the field to keep brosius from throwing to first

      • 5thbase - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:24 AM

        You realize that with the infield in and the winning run at 3rd base the hitter is going to have a bit different approach? Not saying they would not have gotten an out, but it would be pretty stupid to assume the hitting would have done the same thing with a fundamentally different defense.

        With the infield back in the same situation, if Gonzo can get on top of the ball and chop it past the pitcher, the Yankees lose the WS and their fans cry because they weren’t playing the infield in to prevent such a thing. With the infield in, he was just trying to hit it over the infield, which he did.

        I’m guessing Torre probably knows a little bit more about the odds for picking the best choice than you do.

      • lardin - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:48 AM

        5th base: A high chopper over the mound would have scored the run any way, especially if he was going on contact. but with a runner on first and one out you play the SS and 2b at double play depth.

      • 5thbase - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:41 AM

        lardin, you have no idea what you’re talking about. With a pitcher who is known for getting a lot of weak ground balls to 2nd and SS you do NOT play the middle at double play depth with the WS winning run at third. You would be a complete boob to do so. Infield back and a weakly hit ground ball you cannot get the out at home and your chances of getting a double play are greatly reduced.

        And by the way, a high chopper over the mound would NOT have scored the run any way … that’s the whole point of playing the infield in. You would have to really smoke that ball to hit a chopper hard enough to get it over/past the infield. Or you would have to get really lucky to get it right up the middle. Anything that’s not right up the middle is an out unless the fielding infielder screws up. I don’t think Jeter will screw up that play.

        I have no issue with the conjecture that “he might have caught the bloop”. Sure, he might have. Gonzo also might have won the game with a weak ground ball had the middle infield been back. I was originally responding to yankeesgameday who said he “WOULD HAVE caught the bloop”, which is just stupid. If you thumbs down the ideas that Torre has a better idea that you and that you have to allow the fact the hitter won’t necessarily do the exact same thing in very different circumstances you’re pretty much retarded. But, I guess that’s the case if you’re a Yankees fan anyway. I think it has something to do with the toxicity in New York.

        Anyway, cheers.

      • stex52 - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:44 AM

        But that is the point isn’t it? Joe Torre made a choice that didn’t work. lardin was wishing God had intervened one more time, since He knew what was going to happen anyway. :-)

        Let’s get all theological here.

      • deathmonkey41 - Mar 2, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        And perhaps if the heavenly power that gave Gonzo the strength to hit 57 HRs wasn’t there, it would have been a soft bloop to Jeter even with the infield drawn in anyway.

      • bigharold - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:31 PM

        “I’m guessing Torre probably knows a little bit more about the odds for picking the best choice than you do.”

        I wouldn’t bet the ranch of Joe Torre’s tactical skills, .. strategy and tactics was never his best qualities. I watched that game, and it still bothers me to this day. It was clear that while keeping the corners in to guard against the bunt, there was no point in bringing the middle infielders in because if the ball went that far on the ground the games was likely over anyway. So instead of a bloop pop out or perhaps a DP, the D’Backs are WS champs. It’s not sour grapes as it was great series and the D’Backs were a great team with two stud starters in their prime, .. they certainly earned it. But, Torre shouldn’t have brought the middle infielders in. It was dumb then and it’s still dumb.

        Also, I think the Almighty doesn’t really care about the outcome of a baseball game, .. even the WS. Maybe the Baseball Gods, .. but that’s it.

      • navel gazing - Mar 2, 2012 at 7:28 PM

        Everyone forgets about the previous play to 2nd, where Mo slips and doesn’t get the out. Because they had the damn roof open and it rained in Arizona.

        In the desert.
        They have a roof.
        This impacted the World Series.
        This still bugs me.

  3. Jonny 5 - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Well duh..

  4. bobdira - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Gift from God…….gimme a break. He’s keeping the pitch to himself so he can coach after he’s retired.

    • lardin - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:21 AM

      Not the case, he is willing to show it to anyone who wants to learn it. But no one can get the late movement on it that he does, it has something to do with the way his arm/wrist works

  5. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    Just as in Unbreakable, Rivera needs to have an opposite. Who is his opposite? I don’t have a statistical list of the worst closers in baseball history, and I’m too damn lazy to go looking for one. So I’m leaving it to the experts of HBT to come up with the “Samuel L. Jackson” to Mariano’s “Bruce Willis”.

    My first reaction would be Byun Hyung Kim for his awesome games 4 and 5 at Yankee Stadium during the aforementioned 2001 World Series, but I don’t think that would be fair as I believe he had a pretty good couple years up to that point. He sure did look Breakable in that series though.

    • cur68 - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:12 AM

      Kevin Gregg and no argument

    • nategearhart - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:36 AM

      I think he needs to have been a failed Yankee, or at least one who didn’t meet expectations.
      Kyle Farnsworth? Maybe Joba will be there soon…

      • deathmonkey41 - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:06 PM

        How about Sergio Mitre? I don’t remember him getting anyone out- whether he was starting or in long relief.

  6. frankenderek - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    You guys are missing the point. It doesnt matter what defensive as played, God should have intervened and made Gonzo strike out looking because the non existing entity cares about a bunch of relatively advanced apes swinging a stick at a ball.

  7. SmackSaw - Mar 2, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    “I hold it like this and I throw the shit out of it.”

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